The annual family camp out is over. We were a smaller gathering this year: 70 joined us for part or all of the weekend. (We've had just over 100 before.) The weather was wonderful: sunshine, breeze, and a full moon. It didn't start raining until we were pulling out on Sunday afternoon. And oh, the stories...!
An aunt and uncle camp with us every year and are quite tolerant of all the nieces, nephews, children and dogs. In fact, I think they are pretty crazy about us. Either that or just crazy!
Their oldest son is usually our resident chef, but he couldn't make it this year. (We kept in touch with him and another crazy cousin who lives in Virginia by texting. Ah, technology!! Almost as good as being there!) Uncle stood in for him. Well, at least he got charmed into cooking breakfast for a curly haired, blue eyed blonde who filled her plate with scrambled eggs but noshed on pop tarts. She got a little grief for that, but when you're four--sarcasm is lost on you!
Auntie C. is our entertainment every year. This year, I borrowed a can of "Off" from her. She thought I returned it and grabbed the spray can from her counter. She sprayed her legs and was surprised to see it foaming up. She decided it was a new formula and started rubbing it in. Then she discovered that my uncle had set the can of Pam cooking spray on the counter and she was 'pamming' her legs. Oh, the laughs we got from that story. Auntie had soft, glistening legs the rest of the weekend! That's the cooking spray queen on the left.
Two boys who had just finished kindergarten (both missing front teeth) took a net to the creek and captured a frog. The net and frog came back into camp when a discussion ensued as to who was the rightful owner of the frog. It was Alec's net, but Sam was sure it was his. The Mr. finally arbitrated and said that whoever would take the frog out of the net was the rightful owner.
Sam couldn't bring himself to touch it, so Alec took the frog and put it in a bucket. There were tears. Sam wasn't happy. He swore it was the only frog in the creek. There were no more to catch. (Yeah, right!)
Alec guarded the frog and any time he backed away, Sam tried to move in to claim ownership. Finally, Alec's family was leaving and while he was giving good-bye hugs, Sam swiped the frog back. This time Alec cried. He left crying. He couldn't have been a mile down the road when we discovered that the frog they were fighting over was dead! And it probably had been for some time.
For meals there was a hot dog roast with s'mores, a fish fry courtesy of the fiance, and grilling for the Sunday potluck. Breakfasts were eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and french toast. Oh, and I can't forget the pop tarts and powdered donuts! All meals are unorganized. Families contribute and it gets thrown together for whoever shows up for the meal. That sure takes a lot of the work out of planning.
Of course, there is the aunt that shows up on Sunday every year with her five gallons of homemade ice cream. It may get to be too much some year, but boy is it yummy while it is lasting! She is one of the most popular relatives on Sunday. All the kids know who "Ice Cream Auntie" is! (Not to be confused with "Pam Cooking Spray Auntie!")
One of my favorite moments was watching four little girls play a game. I'm not sure what it was, but they sat in a circle on the ground and one at a time would get up and wiggle, shake, or dance a bit, then quickly sit back down. There was a three year old, a four year old, a six year old, and a college freshman playing. I think we might all be the same age at heart!
A six year old with a skinned up nose was making song requests. (I asked her about the nose and all I got was, "Concrete!" Enough said!) We changed several of her glow in the dark bracelets into a halo for her. When she came back, her dad had changed the "halo" into "devil horns." I think he might know her better than I do!
Two teenage cousins, who only know each other from the once-a-year camp out and Facebook, tried to spend the night sleeping together in a hammock. I don't think either girl got any sleep, but I'm sure they had fun trying.
We met some new additions to the family: a new husband, a new baby, a fiance, and a boyfriend we had been hearing about for several years. We had family show up for the first time ever. We're hoping they'll be back next year. They are good sports and fun company. (It didn't hurt that there is a Bed and Breakfast just a mile or so away for the non-camping cousins.)
A lot of new relationships are made. Some of the hunters were planning a hunting weekend for next fall. We get to know spouses that we've only met once or twice. And there were goodnight hugs and good-bye kisses from those little ones, too. They didn't know us at all before the weekend started, but were seeking us out by the end of it. It doesn't get much better than that: the sweetest hugs and kisses ever!
And in among the tents and campers and the cars parked haphazardly, Grandma's old fashioned roses bloom. She's there in spirit and welcoming us with open arms. How happy it must make her to see her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren spending time together and keeping our circle unbroken. There can't be a better way to create the ties that bind. And long after many of us are gone, the younger ones will be remembering us and these happy, funny times.
I've said it before. I'll say it again. I love this large, noisy gathering of young and old. I love this family. The legacy of love lives on. We're lucky.